Paul Thomas Anderson, gifted and regular author like few others, lives on its own planet. That is as true a fact as the talent with which he captures his timeless stories on celluloid. After ‘The invisible thread’, which we thought would be his most accessible film, comes ‘Licorice Pizza’, a new example of the infinite capacity of the Californian filmmaker to show something he knows better than anyone.
Midsummer night dreamers
‘Licorice Pizza’ fools no one and gets straight to the point from the very first frame of a film beautifully portrayed through a wild 35mm CinemaScope, another of Anderson’s career great added assets. From its first seconds we already meet the two adorable protagonists from the story, Alana and Gary, two lonely hearts wanting to find a life partner.
From that first and casual meeting, to the rhythm of David Bowie or The Doors and between water beds, oil crises and illegal flippers, these two hearts will not stop colliding against each other until they finish fitting together. Or at least that is how they will try during the warm nights of the Californian summer full of dreams of greatness in the summer John Ford died.
Between his violently delicate ‘Intoxicated with love’ (turning 20) and the youth of ‘American Graffiti’ or ‘That Exciting Course’, with which he shares Sean Penn forty years later, Anderson’s new job is a gift for movie screens. His photograph, shared with Michael Bauman, serves Andy Jurgensen his first feature film editor credit. Jurgensen, who has worked with the director on his video clips, offers a dynamic cut with which to lighten its 133 minutes of duration.
All those technical aspects, coupled with the absence of stars, since the names of first swords are little more than cameos, make it difficult to see ‘Licorice Pizza’ as a product of our time. What’s new about Anderson is a time capsule buried in an encino forest that has just been discovered.
Anderson did not start making movies in the early 1980s, but surely his memory had already recorded all those adventures in the heart of the San Fernando Valley that saw him born three years before the events of the film. The feeling on the surface to be telling something that he knows perfectly explodes off the screen.
Right now it is not possible to talk about PTA without bearing in mind the extraordinary work of Jonny Greenwood, his trusted musician since ‘Wells of Ambition’ and who contributes on this occasion a beautiful, delicate and magnificent three minutes that know little. It is, perhaps, the biggest hit that I can put to the movie. Anderson makes the decision to resort to hits of the time and forgets to decorate his images with an original score, and that hurts a little if we consider that the work of the Radiohead guitarist in his previous feature film is one of the most popular soundtracks. Incredibles of the last 3000 years.
But where there is no doubt is in relation to its cast. The naturalness and chemistry between Alana Haim (and her entire family), with whom Anderson has worked for years filming her band, and Cooper Hoffman is bomb-proof, and the secondary ones that flood those streets with psychotropic aromas they have their moment to shine. Watch out for Tom Waits’ appearance amid clouds of smoke, the invisible cameos of Spike Jonze and John C. Reilly or the hilarious neurosis of Jon Peters, AKA Bradley Cooper in a Scorsese movie.
‘Licorice Pizza’ will arrive just before Valentine’s Day, so I can’t think of a better plan than to revive the flame, whatever it may be, through its sights and sounds. Nor do I want to say goodbye without confirming that one of the funniest things of the film is the politically incorrect joke that the paw appeared in networks a few weeks ago and with which John Michael Higgins made me burst out laughing. Twice.